This morning, the father of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Professor Benzion Netanyahu, passed away at 102 at his home in Jerusalem. The prime minister visited his father on Sunday for the last time.
Prof. Benzion Netanyahu was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1910 and immigrated to Israel in the 1920s to Jerusalem. He later served as a secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky and headed the Zionist Movement in the United States that became the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA). He became a well-known historian, specializing in the golden age of Jewish history in Spain and a professor emeritus of history at Cornell University. Netanyahu also was the science editor for the Encyclopaedia Hebraica that was published between 1944 and 2005. He was also editor of a newsletter called Zionnews that discussed political controversies in Israel.
Netanyahu was also known for his right-wing political beliefs and his frequent public criticism of his son’s policies. In 2004 he was one of many academics who signed a petition against the Gaza and Northern Samaria disengagements.
Netanyahu married Tzila Segal in 1944 and had three sons: Yonatan, who was killed in Operation Entebbe in 1976, Benjamin and Ido. Ido is a physician, author playwright and Benjamin is the current Prime Minister of Israel in his second term of office.
The announcement of the elder Netanyahu’s passing was marked by the Knesset with the Prime Minister’s rivals from Meretz, Kadima, Labor and National Union all announcing they would not push for elections and would retract their no-confidence votes. Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz and Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovitch both issued statements wishing Netanyahu’s family condolences and praising Netanyahu and his achievements. President Shimon Peres also issued a statement of condolence to the Netanyahu family that praised Benzion as a “Great historian and a great Jew”. A moment of silence in respect for the elder Netanyahu was also held by the IAF’s technical school in Karmiel at the request of President Shimon Peres.
Benzion Netanyahu will be laid to rest this afternoon on Har HaMenuchot in a section reserved for parents who have lost children in war.